KENORA – Provincial Politics – This past week the community of Fort Frances received devastating news when Resolute Forest Products announced that it would be idling that location’s last paper machine. My heart goes out to the workers, their families and the entire community as it deals with the loss of nearly 150 well paying jobs.
I spoke with the company this past week and it was stressed that Resolute remains committed to finding alternative products so that a restart is possible. It was also mentioned that nearly fifty per cent of the affected employees may be eligible to retire, and for those who aren’t, the company will try to place workers at other Resolute locations. The company has asked for my assistance with working with the provincial government in a couple of areas and I remain deeply committed to doing all that I can to ensure that we see a speedy restart.
I know the large footprint that the loss of even a few well paying jobs can have on a community and the region as a whole, which is why I wanted to devote this week’s column to some of the positive economic opportunities we have on the horizon.
There has been a lot of discussion over the past few years about the development of the Ring of Fire, but that project is still a number of years away. There are a lot of changes that need to be made to set the conditions necessary for the project to get off the ground and both the provincial and federal governments have significant roles to play in its development.
What is encouraging, is the other projects across the region that have either already started or are on track to start shortly.
Resolute has said that its Ignace restart is still on track for October of this year and that its Atikokan start is still scheduled for early 2015. Eacom is set to reopen the Ear Falls Sawmill with a 50 percent operational expansion this year and New Gold, near Rainy River, is still on track, pending provincial approvals, to start this fall.
Last week I had the opportunity to meet with the President of Bending Lake Iron Mine while in Ignace. The Bending Lake project is poised to be a very impressive operation, with an estimated 800 – 1000 jobs created during the construction phase, and about 360 permanent pellet plant jobs for the 30 to 60-year mine life. While operation is still a few years away, it could be a very promising opportunity.
While not intending to be insensitive to the devastating blow that Fort Frances received last week, I want to point out that there are a number of lucrative employment opportunities within our grasp across Northwestern Ontario. I am committed to continuing to do all that I can to work with individual companies and entire industries to ensure that we continue to see economic investment and good jobs in our communities. I know the key to our continued enjoyment of this beautiful region depends on our ability to work here. I believe we will have a strong and bright future for years to come.
Sarah Campbell MPP